The Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Board (ABC) commissioners have been holding public hearings to debate - among other things -- allowing advertising of "happy hours" on signs visible from the street or sidewalk.

During Virginia's prohibition of "happy hour" ads, some bars have used the term "attitude adjustment period" to describe the bewitching time of day when cheap drinks and hors d'oeuvres are offered. The home-grown Virginia euphemism inadvertently tackles a question that has long bothered me: Why is 5 o'clock called the happy hour when in reality, it is the antithesis of that for most of us?

It is not a happy hour, but if ever our attitude needs adjusting, it's at 5 in the evening.

It's then that workers are hurrying to finish up the day's tasks. Or fighting the hassle of rush hour: "Was I supposed to buy milk? Do I have the mushroom soup I need for the pork chops? Have the kids eaten the cheese for the casserole? Are the kids home? If they are, is there any food left? Is my home intact? Are the kids intact?

Mothers at home with young children will testify that 5 is the deadliest hour of the day. The small child is hungry, tired, ornery. And just when baby snug 'ems is demanding the most, Mother must cook, charm a returning husband and referee older children also vying for attention. "Mom, you didn't forget to iron my shirt for the meeting tonight, did you? And I need a ride at 6:15. What's for dinner? Yuck!"

And if baby is asleep at 5, you can't enjoy the quiet; you know you'll be up with the darling all night.

Five is the time you must face all the things you didn't accomplish that day. You didn't finish the report. You didn't clear the backlog off your desk. You didn't write that letter. You didn't strip the dresser that needs refinishing. You didn't get the car inspected. You didn't bake that cake. At 5, you are face-to-face with your own inadequacies, like instant pudding.

Five is the hour you are most likely to go off a diet you've been faithful to all day. You're HUNGRY; one little nibble won't hurt.

If you have a "happy-hour" cocktail on the way home from work, you'll drink it too fast. You're thirsty, in a hurry, and loaded with guilt about not getting home. The working father-husband may envy the carefree bachelor making a play for the attractive lady. But they, too, are in the 5 o'clock doldrums, thinking of going home to a cat or dog and a frozen dinner alone.

If you drink a cocktail at home, you still hurry. You've got to get junior to baseball practice. Relaxing? Happy?

And for the widowed or divorced, who may do fine all the rest of the day, 5 o'clock is the loneliest hour.

The only time I remember the happy hour being happy is during college when 5 on Friday meant a bar jammed with atmosphere, beer, and students. But college students seem to be the only people with the energy and enthusiasm to face happy hour in the proper spirit: sans wife, husband, job, kids, commute, mortgage.

Thus, the happy-hour sign should be used only for matriculated students in college towns. The term doesn't apply to the general public. It just makes us more miserable: Why aren't we happy; it's the happy hour?

Taverns elsewhere should adopt the new advertising ploy -- honesty -- on streetside chalk boards and proclaim, "Come in for our Gala Attitude Adjustment Period! Free hors d'oeuvres!"

Now if we can all just get our attitudes adjusted at 5 p.m.